'I want to be screened just like the pirates!': The Power of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Theatre to Aid Research Participation

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Rhonda Spencer
Jayden Hwang
Ryan Sinclair
Fatimah Alramadhan
Susanne Montgomery


Research participation is an important component of advancing whole health and eliminating health disparities, especially in communities facing environmental justice (EJ) issues. Though federally mandated, recruitment of racial and ethnic minorities can be a daunting task and recruitment of children an even greater challenge. A range of typical recruitment strategies (printed materials, word of mouth, broadcast etc.) for those of ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds have exhibited only limited to modest success, depending on the community being served and the type of engagement. To date, there has been only limited assessment of the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR) theatre as a culturally relevant recruitment strategy.

The ENRRICH Railyard Study used CBPR theatre to engage an underserved EJ community, and to assess the health impact of residential proximity to a major freight railyard. The railyard community is comprised of primarily low-income Hispanic families. To promote participation, a CBPR theatre play – a partnership between a community- based organisation (CBO) and a university institution – was produced, from design to production, at two elementary schools. Following the play, parental consents and surveys were sent home. The response was immediate and one of the largest to date – 74 percent of children participated in the study.

The CBPR theatre, university and CBO partnership provided an opportunity to engage under-
served minority children and their parents, thus encouraging participation and facilitating education
on respiratory health and the environment. This article includes experiences and lessons learned from using CBPR theatre to encourage study participation, critical for promoting sustainable change in an EJ community.

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Practice-based articles (Non-refereed)